Last week on U.S. Flat (Thoroughbred/Quarterhorse) Tracks:

Quiet Spring “took bad steps, vanned off” at Will Rogers
My Legacy “vanned off the track” at Will Rogers
Lonemire “vanned off” at Remington
Bv Silver Wings “bled” at Remington
Cashmeifucan “vanned off” at Charles Town
Pump Room “went wrong, vanned off” at Gulfstream
One Sweet Candy “bled” at Remington
Aggressive Driver “bled, vanned off” at Ruidoso

“Vanned Off”: exactly how it sounds – the horse was unable to walk off the track on his own and required the “equine ambulance.” While not all of these horses end up dead, most do, as borne out by my year-end FOIA reports.

“Bled/Returned Bleeding From Nostrils”: typically indicates pulmonary hemorrhage.

(source: Equibase)

At Los Alamitos May 9, Tap the Wire was “injured” at the wire in the 4th race (he “won”). He was then “vanned off.” Familiar with the various styles of (Equibase) chartwriters across the country, I knew that an “injured, vanned” at Los Alamitos almost always means dead. However, I was told by the CHRB that no euthanasia had been reported; neither did the 4-year-old ever surface on the Board’s new database. Now, though, there has finally been a confirmation (track announcer Michael Wrona). Tap the Wire is the 17th victim at Los Alamitos this year.

Wednesday, I reported on the 18 kills sent to me by the Arkansas Racing Commission for the recent Oaklawn meet. The Commission, however, also sent along this proviso:

“The ARC Vet, who is present on the track each race day, becomes involved in these incidents only when blood is drawn from the injured horse or there is reason to suspect a rule violation. The ARC has no other information responsive to your request.”

So, if the Commission vet (who, I’ve been told, is the sole keeper of records for the state) is only “becoming involved” under certain circumstances, it stands to reason that there were even more victims at/of Oaklawn – e.g., those euthanized back in the barn, where, presumably, no blood is drawn; those euthanized off premises entirely. With that in mind, here is a list of horses “vanned off” at Oaklawn this year but not reported dead by the Commission. All, as of this writing, remain missing in action.

A J Rock, Jan 31 (not “vanned” but “pulled up, DNF”)
Spunky Town, Feb 2
Caddo Daddo, Mar 7
Twin Farms, Mar 22
Railman, Mar 29
Mighty Manfred, Apr 3
Replete, Apr 9
Lieutenant Powell, Apr 16
Slovak, Apr 26

Then there’s this: Last year, the Commission disclosed 11 deaths. This year – one year after Santa Anita and all the supposed reform and hyper vigilance that that intense scrutiny engendered – 18. (I have actually confirmed 19: one – Spirogyra on Feb 2 – did not appear on the FOIA document; I confirmed through another source.) That’s a 64% increase. 64%. And this, at one of America’s premier tracks.

Look, I know this gets monotonous, folks, but “we can fix this” is a lie. While the numbers will fluctuate from meet to meet (I don’t expect Oaklawn to have a similar increase next year, or even an increase at all), track to track, state to state, death for the industry in the aggregate is unfailingly constant and, more or less, consistent (see my annual killed lists). Sure, there are things that can be done that would mitigate the killing somewhat, but because of horseracing’s very structure – how they’re bred, when they’re first put to work, what they’re forced to do, how and how often they’re forced to do it, etc. – not in any meaningful way. In short, horseracing guarantees a certain level of killing. Guarantees – for, I remind, nothing more than $2 bets.

Doesn’t it get old, folks? Ahead of Belmont’s (rescheduled) Opening Day, June 3, the New York Racing Association has issued a statement that begins:

“The New York Racing Association, Inc. (NYRA) today announced a number of safety initiatives…for the upcoming 25-day spring/summer meet at Belmont Park. … The safety and welfare of horses…competing at NYRA tracks is our highest priority.”

Given the frequency with which these “safety initiatives” are announced, one would think they’d have run out by now. No matter, though, for facts, as the great John Adams famously said, are stubborn things, and our facts beat their propaganda every time. Speaking of, here’s another fact that NYRA must answer for: In a training session this morning at Belmont, Lil Morning Star “sustained [an] injury to [her] leg, [was] ambulanced to barn [and euthanized]” (Gaming Commission). She was three years old.

Through a FOIA request (repeated requests, actually) to the Arkansas Racing Commission, I have confirmed the following kills at Oaklawn Park in the just-concluded meet:

Usual Suspect, Jan 13, Oaklawn T – “exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage”

Shut the Box, Jan 23, Oaklawn S – “equine protozoal myeloencephalitis”

Ted’s Shadow, Feb 1, Oaklawn T – “catastrophic injury”

Devil’s Drama, Feb 15, Oaklawn R – “catastrophic injury”

Smokey, Feb 16, Oaklawn S – “injured in barn, died due to cerebrum hemorrhage”

Different Days, Feb 16, Oaklawn R (euthanized Feb 17) – “carpus fracture”

Taraz, Feb 17, Oaklawn T – “catastrophic injury”

Arguto, Feb 26, Oaklawn T – “catastrophic injury”

Arkyarkyarky, Mar 8, Oaklawn R – “catastrophic injury”

Dynamite Dan, Mar 12, Oaklawn T (euthanized Mar 14) – “catastrophic injury”

A P Dancer, Mar 21, Oaklawn T – “cannon fracture”

Glory Stars, Mar 26, Oaklawn R – “catastrophic injury”

Kahului, Apr 2, Oaklawn R – “ruptured vein in the pelvic cavity, hypovolemic shock”

Joan’s Delight, Apr 4, Oaklawn T – “sesamoid fracture”

Blowinthebluesaway, Apr 10, Oaklawn R – “fractured shoulder”

Muskoka Wonder, Apr 17, Oaklawn R – “catastrophic injury”

Rockys Warrior, Apr 26, Oaklawn R – “carpus fracture”

Midnight Sway, Apr 26, Oaklawn R – “fetlock fracture”